23 November 2011 zichtbaarzijn

By Ben Haagsma

Since 2010, eight relatively small NGOs have established a Food and Nutrition Security Cluster in the Lango region in northern Uganda. It is expected that this form of collaboration will produce more lasting positive results of food secure households. It is noted that in this region the Internal Displaced Persons (linked to the incursions of the LRA army) have returned from the camps to their homesteads as from 2007-2008. Building up their agricultural production basis is the prime concern.Ben Haagsma conducted the mid term evaluation, together with an Ugandan collegue, in October 2011. This evaluation focused on the quality of this Cluster collaboration. The evaluation had a strong learning dimension. In the data collection and analysis they choose two main methods. Firstly, field interviews with the farmers in the intervention area of each NGO, in which also staff of other NGOs joined. Secondly, office interviews separately with senior management and programme staff to get their different perspectives on this collaboration. In both cases the interviews were semi-structured, using a limited range of open questions, trying to get hold of the deeper lying stories and real answers. All NGOs had jointly formulated and prioritized at the start their learning questions.

The most striking findings and observations:

  1. This form of collaboration promotes a serious internal reflection and mind shift in each NGO about their specific role and the need for specialization. NGOs with a stronger focus have started to render services to other cluster members.
  2. Cluster related activities are too much seen as one-off capacity building inputs in stead of a learning process where application, follow-up, coaching and mentoring play crucial roles
  3. NGO management assumes too easily that programme staff can implement the extra Cluster related activities by simply better planning and without any negative consequences for their existing work plans.
  4. The richness of information from the field interviews: farmers have clear views about the strong and weak points of NGOs; and clear ideas about possible improvements for the performance of NGOs and the work plans
  5. Farmers are already engaged in many practical lobby actions towards local authorities, traders and input suppliers, etc, unlike the dominant perception of the NGOs that farmers are not skilled for lobby.
  6. Also farmers are against free supply of inputs. They prefer to pay for quality services!
  7. Farmers actively copy the positive results from each other and thus illustrate the multiplier effect. This however goes unnoticed by the NGOs.
  8. The positive results achieved thus far focus on food availability only: yield increases, more diversified crops – cash and food, and better farming techniques. The market conditions so far are favorable for easy selling: a high demand for oil seeds by national companies and food crop demand from Southern Sudan

The NGO staff was very surprised and appreciative for the learning methods, they had been practicing themselves for the very first time. It opened their eyes to the richness of farmers’ knowledge and experiences, more than they were aware of. Learning together and exchanging knowledge by doing these field interviews together, was a great experience for the staff of the different NGOs.

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